Franchise Cup details still vague but definitely won't commence too soon

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Rassie Erasmus (Gallo)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo)
  • An announcement on the status of the "Franchise Cup" is hopefully in the pipeline for later this week, but uncertainties remain. 
  • What seems certain is that it won't commence at the end of February as reported earlier, particularly given the training schedules of some of the big guns.
  • Rassie Erasmus previously stated that the tournament isn't actually a full-fledged one, rather a high performance measure to prepare the Bulls and co for the Rainbow Cup.

SA Rugby is hopeful of providing clarity on a mooted "Franchise Cup" later this week, but it's unlikely that the tournament will be commencing in the coming weeks.

Speculation has been rife even before the conclusion of the Currie Cup two weeks ago that South Africa's five franchises would be competing against each other in a jamboree designed to bridge the gap between 2020/21's domestic programme and April's Rainbow Cup.

Having caught wind of the plan, smaller unions such as the Pumas, Griquas and, surprisingly given the uncertain nature of their resources, the Eastern Province Kings have all fluttered eyelids for a seat at the table.

There had been rumours of a 27 February start though that now seems off the mark given the training schedules of some of the big guns.

While the Cheetahs on Monday stated in official communication that they had already begun training last week, the Bulls confirmed to Sport24 that Jake White's charges will only re-assemble closer to the end of the month.

It's also understood that the Lions and Sharks haven't ramped up their preparation in any meaningful way yet.

The men from Ellis Park though are structuring their return to training in a staggered approach, with the juniors having started at the beginning of February and the younger members of the Currie Cup reporting for duty next week.

The senior core returns on February 22. 

As a result, the tournament will surely only be contested somewhere in March.

Rassie Erasmus, the national director of rugby, last month pertinently noted that the moniker "Franchise Cup" is actually a bit inaccurate.

If anything, it's a high performance measure to keep the top players in the country match fit.

"The Franchise Cup is a rugby decision to play the top teams against each other to be competitive in the Rainbow Cup and subsequently the PRO16," he said.

"We needed to help them stand a chance of experiencing some sort of success in future, purely because there are factors such as different weather conditions and different ways of refereeing.

"So we said, let's [use] the franchise to play each other and we'll referee it like it's done in the PRO16. We'll share a lot of information with each other. It's just vital to get players that were underplayed up in terms of game-time and others that were overplayed a bit of rest."

The uncertainty over the feasibility of the Rainbow Cup, which will have to feature some form of cross-border travelling, could also influence the timing of the "Franchise Cup", with franchises perhaps being forced into competing in the SA Cup - the qualification tournament for the Currie Cup - against the nine other unions just to stay match fit.

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